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Amazon expanding $1 billion supply chain fund scope into transportation

Franziska Bossart
Franziska Bossart, director, Industrial Innovation Fund at Amazon

Amazon is broadening the categories of investment for its $1 billion program for logistics and fulfillment technology.

The e-tail giant, which launched the Amazon Industrial Innovation Fund in April 2022, is expanding it to also invest in transportation, including autonomous vehicles and last-mile technologies. The fund’s stated purpose is to spur and support innovative startups focused on warehouse automation and supply chain innovation, including artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).

"Technology will keep playing a significant and ever-increasing role in fulfillment centers, and we will see more and more technology adoption throughout our network, including in middle and last mile delivery, which will help us get orders to customers even faster.,” Franziska Bossart, director, Industrial Innovation Fund at Amazon, said in a corporate blog post.

According to Bossart, the fund has made close to a dozen investments in promising technologies. These include:


In September 2022, Amazon began testing Agility Robotics' bipendal robot, Digit, at its robotics research and development site south of Seattle.  These are mobile robots which are built in a human-like shape and can move like a person while also grasping and handling items with robotic "arms" resembling a human.

The initial use for Digit will be to help employees with tote recycling, the repetitive process of picking up and moving empty totes once inventory has been completely picked out of them.


Sequoia allows Amazon to identify and store inventory at fulfillment centers up to 75% faster than it could previously. When orders are placed, Sequoia also reduces the time it takes to process an order through a fulfillment center by up to 25%, improving shipping predictability and increasing the number of goods Amazon can offer for same-day or next-day shipping.

Building off a series of research and development efforts, Sequoia integrates multiple robot systems to containerize Amazon’s inventory into totes, bringing together mobile robots, gantry systems, robotic arms and a new ergonomic employee workstation.

The system works by having mobile robots transport containerized inventory directly to a gantry, a tall frame with a platform supporting equipment that can either restock totes or send them to an employee to pick out inventory that customers have ordered.

These totes come to employees at a newly-designed ergonomic workstation that allows them to do all their work between mid-thigh and mid-chest height. With this system, employees will no longer have to regularly reach above their heads or squat down to pick customer orders, supporting Amazon efforts to reduce the risk of injuries.

Most recently, Bossart said the fund has made investments in the startups Rightbot, which is developing a system to automate the unloading of containers, and Instock, which has designed a robotic storage and retrieval system that offers efficient inventory management.

The fund has also backed a startup called Vimaan, which has developed AI solutions to more accurately view warehouse inventory. Its technology can help capture the dimensions and weight of freight within seconds, which Bossart said will help reduce operating costs and speed up how quickly Amazon can deliver goods.

“Algorithms have enabled us to develop technologies that can process large amounts of data, make decisions, and learn from experience,” said Bossart. “I believe in 2024, we’ll see more widespread use of these intelligent systems. The groundwork for this technology has been in development for decades, but now we’re seeing many pieces coming together to further drive innovation. Advances in perception, AI, manipulation and control are helping us automate a broader range of tasks.”

According to Bossart, company data shows that recordable incident rates and lost-time incident rates were 15% and 18% lower, respectively, at Amazon Robotics sites than they were at its non-robotics sites in 2022.

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